Suffering for love
Jesus Christ is the good shepherd. He knows His sheep, He provides for them and protects them, and ultimately He gave His life for them. The divine services in March take a slightly different course through the season of Lent which has just begun.
“And other sheep I have which are not of this fold.” These words from John 10: 16 mark the beginning of the month of March. The shepherd is Jesus Christ and the flock symbolises the church of Christ. He calls all human beings to follow Him: regardless of origin or status. Nor does He make distinctions between the living and the dead.
Thus, the term “fold” can be understood as an image of the different spiritual realms in which people find themselves in this world and in the hereafter: more or less near or far from God. What it takes to be part of this fold is the subject of the divine service for the departed on the first Sunday of March.
Disappointments can weaken and damage our faith. Why hasn’t Jesus returned yet? Why doesn’t faith improve my circumstances? Why do I find my rector so annoying? Questions like these are not new; they were already being asked in the early Christian congregations.
The epistle to the Hebrews, addressed to this early Jewish-Christian group, does its utmost to refute this. Hebrews 4: 14–15 writes about the High Priest who suffers with people and understands them because He has been through it all Himself: Jesus Christ cried, wept, and pleaded for salvation. He knows what people need. This is what the second Sunday in March is all about.
Message against evil
A week later, the divine service explores the power that Jesus Christ has over evil. Evil? How real is that anyway? Many people find it normal to be spared from misfortune. When there is talk of evil, many see it as painting a bleak picture to attract people into the church. The awakening is all the harder when they themselves are confronted with evil.
Those who are realistic know what is meant when Galatians 1: 3–4 speaks about the “evil age”: that people are exposed to separation from God and that they cannot overcome the power of evil by their own strength. But there is one who can overcome the power of evil by His own strength. And this is a message worth passing on.
Come to the table!
“The Lord is my shepherd.” Psalm 23 is one of the most famous passages of Scripture. And in verse 5 it says: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Since Jesus is the centre of Scripture for Christians this sentence from Psalm 23 can also be understood as a reference to Holy Communion.
But then who is the enemy? What does “in the presence” mean? And who is invited to this meal? The fourth Sunday in March provides answers and recalls how Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper and what it means for those who follow Him today.
Photo: Maxim Novosvetlo - stock.adobe.com